Island to Island Brewing Conservatory | Beersgiving Mission
Juices, smoothies, kombucha, beer, mead, cider and natural sodas. Crafted with a Caribbean palate using New York grown produce: seeds, fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, flowers and teas.
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Beersgiving Mission

Beersgiving Mission

In an effort to combat alcoholism and addiction as the craft beer industry grows. I am setting out on a mission for 2020 to showcase how craft beer taprooms can not only be a haven for diversity and inclusion, but also be spaces to foster professional development, community and family bonding which all tie into how people value themselves.

As you know, many people are upset about the ongoing discussion about children in taprooms. I have recently become a minor face in the debate for it. I am also very conscious of the unspoken narrative about addiction and vice. Many communities of color have suffered at the hands of intoxicant vices. The presence of craft beer manufacturing facilities in those neighborhoods poses an issue.

The Craft Beer industry is growing. As it grows the conversation around diversity and inclusion grows as well. It’s no secret the optics are discriminatory. But there is an underlying cause for the disproportionate representation and it’s not tied to bias or lack of funding.

The issue is the taboo of substances. For many years people in communities of color have taught their children to stay away from substance. It’s been demonized in houses of worship and has been taught as the one way ticket toward lack of success with a key to jail. Yes, to no avail people of color still dabbled in drink and herbs, but they have done so in secret under the shade of night.

Craft beer is a culture of celebration out in the open, out of the house and with many people and cameras around. Coming from a strict Arawak Central American background, the only place for open air drinking was in the backyard with FAMILY during barbecues. Only with FAMILY were my family members comfortable with indulging and it had to be for a reason. A death, a birth, a wedding or a graduation. Life progressing occasions were the only instances non-ritual drinking was openly allowed.

The turn of the year’s seasons are when we indulged in public (non-familial) drinking rituals such as, the Winter Solstice (christmas bottle shares of home brews) Carnival (the beginning of planting season and the shedding of carnal indulgence) Crop Over (harvest season). During these celebrations we have the grandest of libation parties with strangers and neighbors, governors and laborers; everybody becoming one. And, after months of savings, weeks of planning and days of partying it was all over. Our shroud of prudence was returned to us, like dawning grey overcoats onto our rainbow feathered, tar or powder covered bodies. No more spoken of like the awkward non-answer to where do babies come from.

With libations being tied strictly to ritual celebrations, those who indulged in drinking beer throughout the year like after work and weekends were looked down upon, name called like
“drunks” or “no good son of gun”, they were demeaned, disrespected and ostracized by more prudent family members. The lack of empathy for a hard day’s work and mistreatment from the boss to the household drove men insane. Once upon a time, Arawak women made beer to make men happy. We’d work the cassava into wort and turn the pineapples into wine. We’d soothe souls with the rituals of hair care bonding and skin adornments. But something was lost. My ancestors were met with a migration wave which required them to be on their guard at all times. So our daily practices had to change for survival.

Our women could not drink because they may turn up pregnant. Our men could drink for fear turning up dead or as captured slaves. We had to learn new languages and appropriately code which. We had to teach the migrants how to survive in our land. We shared our secrets as we gave up our rituals for the sake of integration. We lived on guard as the migrants did. Everyone scared the next group might harm the other. With one side holding the power of life and death in a hand through a handheld barrel we developed new tactics of survival, blending in. If we could be like them, talk like them and not falter under the influence we would succeed and survive.

No victim-hood. Our paths are our own and if we represented the family well and brought respect, honor and accolades from America or Europe with no jail record we had accomplished the goal.

But breaking the code, breaking the mold that got us a seat at the table that was punishable under the strictest love of god. Spare the rod and spoil the child. Yeah though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil. These phrases turned family members to brutal disciplinarians. And if their actions to save a family member lead to a dead end they had no fear turning their backs. It was not interpreted as Corinthians love, being patient and kind, for that was seen as a luxury reserved for white people.

Thus, when a person of color turns to his or her family and friends and says “I will open and operate a business that will bring jobs to the people and fund local development by bringing wealth to the community” they are praised, until they finish their sentence,” by making beer!”

“Beer! you want to ruin our neighborhood? You want to drink all day? You want the cops to come for you” Have you lost your mind? How could you sell what we make in secret as a family? You Will Fail!”

The messages of disapproval a BIPOC (Brown, Indeginous, People of Color) may receive from their first pitch are enough to stop plans dead in their tracts. With savings bubbling in bank accounts being garnished by interest, bank fees and taxes family and friends refuse to become first round funding partners/investors. Graduate college, they’ll roll out the red carpet. Get married, they’ll pay for the wedding. Die and they’ll fly the whole family back home for the lavish funeral. But start a business in alcohol in spite of the fact that it is a growing industry now that’s Traitorous.

Joining the craft beer industry goes against everything BIPOCs were taught. In public, you don’t do drugs, alcohol or get caught up with the cops. Get yourself a good government job and come home every night after work. No bars, no clubs. Only party with your family where you are safe from the public eye.

No wonder craft beer is lacking diversity. There is a social stigma that teaches us white people are chosen and can do as they please. We can not dream of more than what we are given. And we must not step outside the box for fear of retribution.

Outside this grey overcast of fear I and a few others see outside the box. We’ve executed creative ways to enter a market we are passionate about. We’ve fought the battle of family disapproval, social injustice, lack of access to funding and being used as tokens. As Warcloud Brewing’s mission statement puts it “We operate with the warrior mindset bestowed upon us by our creator. Much like the Special Forces Green Berets; we know it’s imperative to kill (competition) with unconventional style and warfare. Therefore we treat beer brewing like war and whirlwind thru cities like a cloud. Warcloud is out to defy the norm, explore, and gather….”.

Rather than blaming white men, may we consider looking at the reasons behind why BIPOC and women don’t have as much representation as many are demanding? Why historically and collectively we’ve been slow to come out of status quo social roles and live the American dream? I intend throughout 2020 to showcase how craft beer being mostly family run small business establishments are hotbeds for family bonding, workplaces for those highly skilled in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) with a family work life balance and help usher in the next wave of manufacturing industry talent to help transition the legacies of American production companies.

I am Danii Oliver, founder of Island to Island Brewery. I will be kicking off this campaign with a Beersgiving collaboration of food and beer pairings on November 29th 2019 along with other industry professionals being reminded of why they do this work, why we fight to exist, while honoring the military families who make it possible. Family members who care for and support our veterans so we can live the American dream.

“I love this country! I love our freedoms. I love that the U.S.A. is the only country in the world where you can be your true self, re-invent yourself and start life over as often as we want. In America, we are not confined to our backgrounds, our upbringing, or even our mistakes. We can move from state to state freely, change careers, express our opinions without legal repercussions, dress as we want, love who we want, and if we work hard and smart enough… I can actually improve our destinies for generations to come.” — Featured Chef.

I’d like to share this mission with the craft beer, manufacturing and hospitality industries. The Beersgiving pairing event and “Conversations with Military Families” series is meant to kick off the movement bridging the need for industry talent to support its growth alongside championing family work life balance for more diversity and inclusion.